The President’s Incentive Remark Debate Versus the Use of English Language in South Sudan

Posted: May 15, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Arop Madut-Arop, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Hon Arop Madut Arop, Oxford, UK

Arop Madut Arop

Hon Arop Madut Arop is the current MP for Abyei in Juba and the author of three classic books, namely: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006); The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012), and The Ngok Dinka of Abyei in Historical Perspective (2018).


Tuesday, 15 May, 2018 (PW) — When the IGAD decided to revitalise the 2015 agreement on the conflict in South Sudan in 2017, it dawned into my mind that the term used may be misinterpreted by many of our compatriots since many of us have learned English Language as a second language. Those of us who had first learned the vernacular or the mother tongue will rather think first in native language before writing it down in English Language. In this respect, it is very possible to misinterpret what would otherwise be a straight forward term, like the revitalisation of the 2015 ARCSS peace deal.

When the word revitalisation of the ARCSS was first introduced by the IGAD Mediators, I thought of making it easier for the stakeholders by listing alternative acronyms to the word revitalisation. I first started with the word, ‘vita’ which in Latin Language means life. Thus the word vital has become used in English Language as an adjective to mean important and to revitalise means to energise. But in the IGAD Mediators context, it means to review the 2015 ARCSS peace deal with the aim of improving its contents for feasible implementation. Other acronyms that would help people understand the IGAD terminology to revitalise better, include among others: to resuscitate, review, to revise, to rearrange, to improve, to adjust or simply to correct the terms of the said agreement.

During the second meeting of the revitalisation Forum, I was vindicated when I noticed that some leaders among the stakeholders who have better studied English Language in depth and who apparently made use of the fact that, many South Sudanese may not comprehend their motive disregarded the word revitalisation of the ARCSS deal and began talking about issues that would have better been discussed in a renegotiation forum, instead of revitalisation mechanism.

Again during the funeral rite marking the passing of the SPLA Chief of Defence, last month, President Salva Kiir, apparently in reference to the Opposition Group’s demand that he should relinquish power to a person of his choice, after signing the peace deal with the rebels, made another controversial remark; when he stated and I quote. ‘’What would be my incentive to bring peace and then step aside not to lead the transitional government?’’

The president’s incentive remark was immediately received with mix reactions from various quarters of our communities throughout South Sudan and beyond. There were also those who interpreted the president incentive remark in a pecuniary term of profit and loss; while others interpreted it in a political term. A third group thought that, their President does not need incentive to relinquish power at all cost. The fourth reaction came from those who thought that Kiir is a nationalist of long standing and to ask him to step aside after bringing peace back to the country and to hand power over to unknown quantity individuals who may not even be capable to lead the country was out of question as it was  unthinkable.

As many people in South Sudan appear to have misinterpreted the president incentive remark to suit their own design, I thought that I should throw some more light on the incentive debate. But before I discuss this controversial sentence further, it would be important to say what the new English Language Dictionary and Thesaurus says about the word incentive. It defines it to mean: cause, encourage, persuade, motivate, stimulate or serving as a stimulus to action.

In a separate development, the people who have taken the word incentive in a commercial way seem to believe that, their president is not poor enough to seek pecuniary profit so that he leaves office. To make the argument more coherent and colourful, I will take some quotations from some specific writers who seem to have well understood the term incentive in their own individual way.

The first interpretation came from a Mr Deng Deng Akuei. In his article titled, The “Incentive Debate” and the “Useful Idiots” of South Sudan, Mr Deng Deng Akuei has interpreted President Kiir incentive remark in a political jargon. He asks. ‘’What would be the incentives of President Kiir to relinquish power to a disorganized group of gangs whose political ideologies are malicious, out-dated, exclusive and conform to personal tummies and ethnic chauvinistic inclines?

Mr Deng Deng Akuei adds further. Kiir’s incentive remarks are politically correct and adhere to prevalent dictates of politics in the country, and our moral instincts are there to judge us. Unless we accept the bitter fact that ‘moral rot’ left no one untouched that his statement could be objected to—, end quote.

The second reaction came from a woman who may have lost her husband during the crisis; has no known bread winning business and caring for her children apparently at the skin of her teeth and; who may have interpreted president incentive remark in a literary way states. She puts the following question. ‘’What is my incentive in this crisis Mr President? Ends quote.

The third writer, Mr Sunday de John, in his article “No Incentives, No Peace, President Kiir says so!’’ describes President Kiir’s incentive remark apparently, in a pecuniary way, he writes…..’’The President could be given five million US Dollars package, as an incentive package, apparently to let him relinquish power.

The fourth writer, Mr David Mayen Dengdit, who may have better understood President Kiir remark to mean encouragement, motive or stimulate him to relinquish power, has this to say about the president’s incentive remark and I quote. ‘’The question that pops into our minds would be: can a lucrative exit package be an acceptable incentive? What of an internationally and continentally brokered guarantee of temporary exile (only during the interim period), head of state level covered expenses, and no prosecution agreement?’’

Mr David Mayen Dengdit adds. ‘’My motive behind writing this notes is not cynical by any means. I am my own master of my conscience.  My motive is to draw the attention of President Kiir Mayardit, who I would want to be proud of as a citizen of South Sudan, to the fact that: aside from the presidency there are many other incentives that have made other African presidents quit’’ ends quote.

A Fifth writer, Mr Malith Alier, in his article titled ”Looking for Incentives in the Bare Land’’ has this to say. ‘’What will be my incentives, if I sign myself out of peace agreement as the opposition demanded? To put this in context, I should define the term incentive as in Merriam Webster dictionary: INCENTIVE: something that incites or has a tendency to incite to determination adding.  It is not only bullet battles being fought in South Sudan but also words and phrases are at the front and end of the political soul of the nation. Political leaders, including the president are wrongly or rightly quoted by media wherever and whenever, they attempt to explain themselves to the sceptical, traumatised masses’’ ends quote.

Food for Thought Comment

Having cited what some compatriots, who may have wrongly or rightly understood the President incentive remark in their debate, in one way or the other, I would therefore like to draw the attention of both activist and potential writers for the news media that, they should take note of one vital fact and that is that: In writing for news media, it is always important to think first about the impact of what one writes, will bring to bear on the people who are their target and to the public in general.

More importantly, both active and potential news media writers should also be reminded that, our country has gone too long through bitter memories and untold suffering to extent that our historical social fabric that has kept us together for centuries, has been eroded. Instead phobia, paranoia and frustration have influenced us, to the extent that, we no longer respect our elders; either through social encounters or most recently, writing for the ‘’social media mad world’’.

Nor do they ask themselves first of what they would like to achieve for writing a piece in the news media. If they do give themselves time to think about what they write about and understand the impact it will bring to bear on their targeted people, they would always be positive and constructive in their writing in the news media.

Further, I will add that, in accordance to our African tradition, the youths are coached not to use abusive languages in their dealing with their elders or chiefs. Rather they do confront them with facts that may make them respect what is being said about them by the younger generations and respond courteously to their criticisms.

Advisably, when writing in news media, it is always important to ask one-self the following pointed questions first. When I write, what do I want to achieve; do I want to correct something, do I want to convey useful messages to the general public? Do I want to lobby on a matter for the good of my society or for public interest, do I write to scorn or to destroy what I loathe?

These few questions are important to stress because writing is not like talking. In the talking business one can be excused for a slip of the tongue. But in the writing world, there is no excuse at all, because the writer is expected to have had time to go over what he has written and correct, in case there are discrepancies.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest to fellow active and potential writers that, they should advisably adopt a new culture, in respect to their writing business. They should harness their personal ego, especially whenever they write about controversial issues. In brief it is always better to be constructive in writing articles particularly in the news media. Firstly, for the benefit of the general public in accordance to our time honoured African tradition, and secondly to avoid libellous court cases.

Hon Arop Madut Arop, currently an MP for Abyei at SSLA and an international media consultant, holds a Diploma in Socialist journalism – International institute of journalism (East Berlin); Advanced Diploma in Liberal Journalism International Institute of Media Studies (West Berlin) and Masters of Arts Degree in International Journalism (City University of London). He is the author of three classic books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006); The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012), and The Ngok Dinka of Abyei in Historical Perspective (2018). He is also author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese website (PW). If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël website (PW) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. T.Ngundeng says:

    Do this old generation man trying to sell best younger generation writers to unknown gunmen? Shame on you Arop Madut of selling your young good writers to national security when you are talk of respect of elders. What respect? Shame on you.


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